So the story goes, unfortunately readily bought by the majority of fresh arrivals in Ankara in general, that once upon a time a spaceship has landed in this dusty, God forsaken Muslim sultanate of yore and out came from its door a blond man with ice blue eyes, namely Mustafa Kemal (later to become Atatürk) with his handful of friends. As if the setting is, avoiding any pejorative allusion, the sleepy fishing village of Dubai that would transform into the Manhattan of the Gulf.
Let’s just pause here for a second and ponder on this curious business of “transformation.” According to Merriam-Webster “to transform” means both “to change in composition or structure” and “to change the outward form or appearance of.” Whereas, “metamorphosis” means “change of physical form, structure, or substance” and “a striking alteration in appearance, character, or circumstances.” And “modern” is “characteristic of the present or the immediate past” or “characteristic of a period extending from a relevant remote past to the present time.” Banalities, is it?
Not so fast. According to Professor Kalın, the presidential spokesperson “We were told other people’s tales under the guise of modernization since a hundred and fifty years. Now, it’s time to write of our own tale.” Ergo, Mr. Kalın not only outright rejects my spaceship theory but also attempts to delete an entire pan of this country’s history since the Imperial Edict of “Tanzimat” (re-organisation) in 1839. Just to avoid any sensationalism, let’s put it on the record that Mr. Kalın is no lunatic. That’s why his expression of his teenage dreams of accomplishing a full back-somersault must be taken for what it’s worth.
True, it is for sure easier said than done. The task is not up to neither Mr. Kalın nor Mr. Erdoğan to deconstruct the full edifice of Turkey’s 150 years old modernization. Yet the damage done already speaks for itself. The rudderless joyride of foreign policy on constant alert to look even for more trouble is there. The utter lack of accountability and lack of even a face-saving modicum of legality is abhorrent. Just see the way Hatay Bar Association Chair is taken under custody while he was quietly having dinner with his wife and children just because he dared (!) to ask why his ID was being asked for by police officers. It is more than telling for what remains in stock not to mention the case of Mr. Kavala and many other political hostages.
Look at the operetta imam who now turned it into a habit to take the podium with a ceremonial sword at hand. Take note of the swift volte-face by gongo KADEM which while seemingly standing up against AKP’s political push for Turkey to leave the Istanbul Convention to combat violence against women was in a hurry to condemn LGBTI rights. See Erdoğan who didn’t miss the opportunity while cutting the ribbon of the gigantic new national intelligence HQ in Istanbul to heap praise on Sultan Hamid’s Metternich style mukhabarat organisation. Add the superficial uproar created against Netflix because of a gay character in their Turkish series and then the immediate service of a censorship law on a silver plate.
And then compare the joke of a communication effort run by our present day equivalent of Orwell’s Ministry of Truth. To leave this exquisite bunch on their own with their teenage wet dreams would be tempting. That seems to be the option that the main opposition seems to be leaning towards anyway. On my behalf, I am not quite sure nor interested in which tales the likes of Mr. Kalın or Mr. Altun were listening to or which bedtime stories they are concocting for us these days. I know one thing for sure though, and that is I had enough of this BS –if you pardon my French. As Turkey’s modernization goes, there are full racks of scientific literature in English and in Turkish to suit anyone’s taste and knowledge.
To cut this long story (tale?) short, the eternal Gordion’s knot that these self-hating gents are facing is indeed with secularism. For, Islam is not only a divine religion but also is a set of worldly rules that firmly dictates a strict way of life including the sort of state one can live in as a Muslim person. So, on the one end of the political spectrum you have the spectre of islamophobia and on the other you have the potential of having a Muslim Democrat Party like CDU. And secularism as attempted to be marketed in this case is no radicalism and it is no trespassing of the human rights of a Muslim constitutional citizen. To the contrary, secularism is the atmospheric sphere where all constitutional citizens can live, be free and pursue happiness as they see fit.